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[Weekender] Kensington resort opens new European-themed branch in Seorak

Kensington Hotel & Resort, which opened its 23rd branch up in the mountains of Seoraksan last week, has mostly adopted a strategy of acquiring existing brands and remodeling them instead of building from scratch. This has both pros and cons, but it does result in diversity in terms of the look and features of each hotel and resort under its umbrella.

Kensington Resort Seorak Valley, the newest edition to the brand, shoots for a relaxing getaway in nature. The officials say the buildings are meant to be reminiscent of a mountain range in the Alps, and this resort is considered the finest of the 13 Kensington branches operating in South Korea.

Kensington Resort Seorak Valley / Kensington Hotel & Resort
Kensington Resort Seorak Valley / Kensington Hotel & Resort

The resort is located in Goseong-gun, Gangwon Province, well up in the mountains. It is not to be confused with Kensington Resort Seorak Beach, which is -- as the name suggests -- located by the beach roughly half an hour away, making any confusion between the two a highly frustrating mistake.

Be warned that the Seorak Valley is located quite far away from any villages, and the pitch blackness of the woods makes it very difficult to leave the premises at night. But there is a large convenience store on the resort grounds, so you can get pretty much anything you need there.

Upon stepping into the welcoming center, I noticed the wooden decorations, cowbells and indigenous flowers from Europe as well as other props. Its ceilings extended several feet higher than normal, and the lighting felt warm and cozy. Even though it looked suspiciously clean for what is supposed to be a mountain ranch, I had to admit the place did look pretty.

Kensington Resort Seorak Valley / Kensington Hotel & Resort
Kensington Resort Seorak Valley / Kensington Hotel & Resort

This center doubled as a cafe where we were treated to a barbecue dinner, and having lucked out with the weather we saw the hills through the giant windows -- a spectacle indeed. Employees told me that many of the cabins had been positioned to offer a view of Ulsanbawi (Rock of Ulsan), one of the most well-known features of Seorak.

The cabins were located in mini-villages named after Swiss cities, and I was ushered to the Lucerne section. This held 17 of the biggest cabins, detached 119-square-meter dwellings with separate parking spaces and consisting of three rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room and an outdoor area where you could have a cookout. The antler hung over the living room was in keeping with the theme, but the cabin actually felt like a nice, sizable house that people could actually live in.

Kensington Resort Seorak Valley / Kensington Hotel & Resort
Kensington Resort Seorak Valley / Kensington Hotel & Resort

Gigantic windows allowed me a great view of the surrounding area, and some view it was. Seoraksan is considered one of the most beautiful mountains on the Korean Peninsula. So much so that legend has it that the aforementioned Ulsanbawi was on its way to Kumgangsan -- supposedly the most beautiful place on the peninsula -- but mistook Seoraksan for it and settled there instead.

Slightly smaller 115-square-meter cabins are in the Basel section -- housing up to six, compared with seven in Lucerne. The Lausanne and Bern sections have smaller attached cabins, also with three bedrooms each but with only one bathroom.

I was glad I could sleep in, as the “good morning delivery service” would deliver my breakfast -- a full-sized Korean-style meal -- to my door at around 8 a.m. After unpacking, I stepped outside to experience the resort’s outdoor facilities.

As I visited before the official opening, some of those were still undergoing preparation. The family farm was due to open next year, a museum was due in 2023, and a Swiss-themed garden was on its way after that, with the facility expected to be completed around 2025.

Now, I wasn’t sure what to make of an empty field being called a “sports zone,” but I did enjoy the rest of the outdoor facilities. The walk along the trails was nice -- the resort was spread across almost a million square meters, so there was plenty of space to do just that -- there were several photo zones, and the deer at the deer farm were absolutely adorable, although I felt a little guilty for making them all run away. The arterial lake area was a bit underwhelming, but I heard at night it was decorated with all sorts of colorful lights that were supposed to make it spectacular.

There was a section of the woods where people could just take a nap on hammock, which was my personal favorite. I lay there, looking up at the blue skies, the wind gently tickling my face, with the fresh smell of the forest and without a care in the world.

While I didn’t get a chance to explore it, there was also a forest of metasequoia trees where nighttime activities are planned for the future, such as checking out the constellations in the sky.

As I walked backed toward my cabin, the astonishing sight of the sunset sent me off, a spectacle I frankly would never have seen in the gigantic city of Seoul.

In celebration of its opening, the resort is offering a package deal until Dec. 31 that encompasses lodging, breakfast and dinner, all activities, an all-you-can-drink coupon for either Kloud draft beer or Americano coffee, a coupon for a bottle of wine, a late checkout option and a ticket to enter Seoraksan National Park.

For more information in Korean, English or Chinese, visit the homepage at

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